Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. UK Politics
21 January 2019updated 09 Sep 2021 4:20pm

The government’s Domestic Abuse Bill doesn’t go far enough

The Bill is an ambitious first step, but we need a holistic approach to really tackle domestic abuse.

By Suzanne Jacob

We talk to survivors of domestic abuse every day. They reach out to us online, help to design our projects, and sit among us in the office. The people affected by domestic abuse are our colleagues, our friends, our families and neighbours.

What always strikes me when speaking with anyone who has experienced domestic abuse is their desire for change. Rather than merely patching up its effects, survivors want to stop abuse before it starts. They believe that understanding the dynamics and misuses of power at the heart of domestic abuse is key to preventing people from becoming future victims.

The government today announced a draft Domestic Abuse Bill to tackle an epidemic that sees two women murdered every week in England and Wales, and a further two million people affected by domestic abuse across the UK. These are shocking figures. If that wasn’t enough, domestic abuse costs the British economy £66bn annually – more than the combined costs of obesity, alcohol, drug and cigarette use. The harrowing reality is that thousands of people abuse those they claim to love, causing staggering damage to individuals and communities across the UK.

We’re delighted that the government’s domestic abuse bill will shift responsibility onto the perpetrators rather than the victims of domestic abuse. Survivors have told us they wish to see tougher sentencing and stiffer repercussions where court orders are not upheld. But they also want to see community programmes aimed at rehabilitating and changing perpetrators’ behaviours.

The government’s Bill will ban perpetrators from cross-examining victims in family courts, and encourage greater use of specialist domestic abuse courts. But we would like to see this go further. Ending an abuser’s right to unsupervised child contact once they have been charged would help protect children, who often become the unseen victims of domestic abuse.  

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

The Bill seeks to make a complex set of laws more coherent. Currently, there are 1.1 million cases of domestic abuse recorded by police each year but only 100,000 convictions. We need the police and the courts to be more confident about how to use existing laws effectively, rather than giving short sentences for charges like criminal damage where an underlying domestic situation is far more serious.

Content from our partners
Harnessing breakthrough thinking
Are we there yet with electric cars? The EV story – with Wejo
Sherif Tawfik: The Middle East and Africa are ready to lead on the climate

To truly address domestic abuse, we need a holistic approach that spans government departments and recognises the impact of domestic abuse in every area of public life. The NHS is a fulcrum in domestic abuse cases; people are more likely to seek help from a doctor about an abuse-related health problem than they are from the police. Employing domestic abuse specialists in A&Es, and giving GPs the tools to refer suspected victims for the right support, would save lives and reduce the cost of domestic abuse for the NHS – currently an estimated £1.73 billion.

This Bill is an ambitious first step, made possible by survivors of domestic abuse speaking out about these issues. Hundreds of survivors have shared their experiences with us. We owe it to them now to take this bill even further and end domestic abuse for everyone, for good.

Suzanne Jacob is chief executive of domestic abuse charity SafeLives.

Topics in this article :